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Max-Planck-Institut für Quantenoptik

History of the Institute

The Max-Planck-Institut für Quantenoptik (MPQ) was founded on January 1st 1981. It grew out of the Projektgruppe für Laserforschung (Project Group for Laser Research), which had started work on January 1st 1976 following an agreement between the Federal Ministry for Research and Technology and the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft.

The nucleus of the Project Group was formed by members of the Max-Planck-Institut für Plasmaphysik (IPP), who were working on the development and application of high-power lasers in fusion research. The aims of the group were to investigate and exploit the special opportunities offered by laser sources in plasma physics, chemistry, spectroscopy and related fields.

The Project Group began its work with 46 members, under the Directors Karl-Ludwig Kompa, Herbert Walther and Siegbert Witkowski. With the founding of the MPQ the group had been enlarged to 82 members. In April 1986 a fourth division was added to the Institute with the appointment of Theodor Hänsch, then at Stanford University. Like Herbert Walther, Theodor Hänsch holds a chair at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, München, leading to the formation of close links between the Institute and the university environment in München.

In its initial phase the Institute was located in a building of the IPP. In July 1986 it moved into the new building on the southern edge of the research complex in Garching, with a main floor space of 6600 m2.

When Siegbert Witkowski gained emeritus status in 1993 a first re-orientation of the research programme began. The laser plasma research with the Asterix high-power laser, which had been developed and constructed in the Project Group´s initial phase, was brought to a conclusion. In the course of 1997 the laser was finally dismantled, and at the end of 1998 was transferred to the Institute of Plasma Physics at the Academy of Sciences in Prague, where it will be operated in future. This has made the laboratory available for a new division which is currently being built up. The new Director is Gerhard Rempe, who began his work at MPQ in March 1999.

The Institute currently has 189 members in the divisions of Laser Physics, Laser Chemistry and Laser Spectroscopy. Gerhard Rempe´s new division of Quantum Dynamics will be concerned with experiments with ultra-cold atoms and their quantum behaviour. In addition there are research groups for laser plasmas and theoretical quantum optics.

The theoretical and experimental work is supported by the guest scientists Prof. M.O. Scully, from the Texas A&M University at College Station, Texas, USA, and Prof. R.D. Levine from the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel.

Profile of the Institute

The MPQ’s scientific work is concerned with basic experimental and theoretical research in the field of light-matter interaction, and with the development of new laser techniques and their application in atomic and plasma physics.

The following topics form focal points of the Institute´s work: precision spectroscopy applied to the hydrogen atom (antihydrogen atom) and to single trapped ions; the study of quantum processes in the interaction of radiation with single atoms in cavities; experiments with laser-cooled, ultra-cold atoms for the study of atom optics and Bose-Einstein condensation, as well as the study of quantum phenomena in molecular physics and chemistry.

Other research topics are the radiation-interaction of ultrashort laser pulses with matter and the investigation of molecular processes on surfaces using laser methods. On January 1st 1994 the Institute set up a research unit at the University of Hannover to construct and operate a gravitational wave detector. This special laser experiment is intended to investigate gravitational waves.


Max-Planck-Institut für Quantenoptik

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